Once in a dream (for once I dreamed of you)
We stood together in an open field;
Above our heads two swift-winged pigeons wheeled,
Sporting at ease and courting full in view.
When loftier still a broadening darkness flew,
Down-swooping, and a ravenous hawk revealed;
Too weak to fight, too fond to fly, they yield;
So farewell life and love and pleasures new.
Then as their plumes fell fluttering to the ground,
Their snow-white plumage flecked with crimson drops,
I wept, and thought I turned towards you to weep:
But you were gone; while rustling hedgerow tops
Bent in a wind which bore to me a sound
Of far-off piteous bleat of lambs and sheep.
Jess and Jill are pretty girls,
Plump and well to do,
In a cloud of windy curls:
Yet I know who
Loves me more than curls or pearls.
I’m not pretty, not a bit—
Thin and sallow-pale;
When I trudge along the street
I don’t need a veil:
Yet I have one fancy hit. 10
Jess and Jill can trill and sing
With a flute-like voice,
Dance as light as bird on wing,
Laugh for careless joys:
Yet it’s I who wear the ring.
Jess and Jill will mate some day,
Ripen on to June through May,
While the sun shines make their hay,
Slacken steps demurely: 20
Yet even there I lead the way.
While roses are so red,
While lilies are so white,
Shall a woman exalt her face
Because it gives delight?
She’s not so sweet as a rose,
A lily’s straighter than she,
And if she were as red or white
She’d be but one of three.
Whether she flush in love’s summer
Or in its winter grow pale, 10
Whether she flaunt her beauty
Or hide it away in a veil,
Be she red or white,
And stand she erect or bowed,
Time will win the race he runs with her
And hide her away in a shroud.
You must not call me Maggie, you must not call me
For I’m Lady of the Manor now stately to see;
And if there comes a babe, as there may some happy year,
’Twill be little lord or lady at my knee.
Oh, but what ails you, my sailor cousin Phil,
That you shake and turn white like a cockcrow ghost?
You’re as white as I turned once down by the mill,
When one told me you and ship and crew were lost:
Philip my playfellow, when we were boy and girl
(It was the Miller’s Nancy told it to me), 10
Philip with the merry life in lip and curl,
Philip my playfellow drowned in the sea!